How do you do something disgusting without hurting your image?
If you’re the Walton Family, you hide behind a mask.
That’s what their latest AstroTurf front group is – the so-called National Parents Union (NPU).
It’s a way to bust teachers unions, destroy public schools and profit off of students behind the guise of a friendly parents organization.
Oh, it’s all funded with oodles of cash from the Walton family and other billionaires but they get to pretend to be nothing but supporters on the sidelines.
The people who bust unions before most of us have even had breakfast yet claim they have nothing to do with this anti-union movement. It is all the parents doing. The Walmart heirs just put up the money to let these parents live their dream of union free schools – as if schools where educators have no rights or intellectual freedom were somehow in the best interests of students.
The group is set to officially launch operations on Thursday, Jan. 16.
It is very different to another organization with the same name – the National Parents Union founded by Mona Davids and other New York parents. That organization which has existed since 2012 fights for the rights of students at both charter and authentic public schools and is not funded by supply side billionaires.
The NEW and unimproved National Parents Union is simply co-opting the existing organization’s name.
This shell group for corporate profiteers and union busters formally begins operating today at a meeting in New Orleans.
The site is well chosen. It’s where Hurricane Katrina allowed radical Republicans and neoliberal Democrats to demolish the public schools and replace them with a nearly all charter school district to disastrous effect. Neighborhoods were destroyed more by the redistricting than the natural disaster, many poor and minority families and teachers were forced out, and those left behind were forced to subsist on low quality schools obsessed with test prep and zero tolerance discipline policies. THIS is where NPU expects to trumpet the same policies that have devastated the Big Easy.
And it’s not just the Waltons behind the curtain.
Backers include a veritable who’s who of education disruption, school privatization, and failed programs that treat education like a floundering business that needs dismantling and fed to vulture capitalists.
We’ve got Barack Obama’s former education secretary John King who now serves as president and CEO of The Education Trust – itself an AstroTurf standardized testing lobbying firm funded by another billionaire, Bill Gates.
King has a record of union busting and corporate collaboration at the expense of children and parents. He was also New York Commissioner of Education, where he refused to fix a school system he was responsible for destroying all the while pointing his finger at teachers. He tied teacher evaluations to unproven and inferior Common Core tests, approved an obviously fraudulent charter school run by an obviously fraudulent con man, ignored and dismissed parents at various education forums, and sparked the largest opt out movement in the country.
And don’t forget Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) – a right wing school privatization lobbying firm that pretends to represent progressives. DFER is notorious for laundering billionaire cash and trying to make its initiatives look like they come from the grass roots. The organization is bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch and other conservative billionaires. It’s so antithetical to the Democratic Party platform that the California and Colorado Democratic State Assemblies voted to demand DFER remove “Democrat” from its name.
However, DFER demurred and continues to pass itself off as part of a political movement that wants nothing to do with it.
In similar fashion, NPU is lead by Keri Rodriguez. She’s on the advisory board of DFER.
But she also spearheaded an effort to set up a referendum in Massachusetts to raise the cap on charter schools in 2016. The measure would have allowed a dozen new charters every year forever, located wherever they chose. But voters overwhelmingly defeated the proposition.
All of these individuals have deep ties to the Walton Family.
You might even say they are puppets of the oligarch family.
In just 2018 alone, the Walton Family Foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants, according to its own financial reports, much of which funded the efforts of the same folks behind NPU.
Rodrigues’ school privatization lobbyist group, Massachusetts Parents United, got more than $886,000 just in two years – 2017 and 2018.
Maurice Cunningham, a Dark Money investigator, estimates the total is up to at least $1 million by now.
If we add DFER and other NPU associated groups, Walton funding tops at least $5 million for the fiscal year 2018, alone.
But somehow NPU expects us to believe this is a parent lead movement.
The facts don’t back it up.
In 2018, the country was rocked by a wave of teacher walkouts mostly in red states beginning with West Virginia. In every state parents and students overwhelmingly supported the teachers.
The movement to fight for better working conditions for educators is also a fight to increase learning conditions for students.
Teachers aren’t just fighting for higher wages. They’re fighting for smaller class sizes, more tutors, counselors and librarians. They’re fighting for more funding and resources for students. They’re fighting for relief from school privatization and high stakes standardized testing.
In short, teachers, parents and students are fighting against exactly the same kind of nonsense the Walmart heirs are hoping they can get the gullible public to believe parents actually really, REALLY want.
It’s ridiculous when you look at it.
The same company that pays poverty wages wants you to believe parents support policies that help enable low paychecks.
The same billionaires terrified their workers will unionize want you to believe that parents barely making ends meet are also horrified that people like them might have dignity at work.
The same corporation making record profits wants you to believe that hurting the people who volunteer to help your kids learn will somehow help them learn better.
A National Parents Union that’s anti-teacher and pro-corporation is like Chickens for McNuggets.
They think you’re that stupid.
And if these rich folks continue to get their way, they’ll ensure that the next generation is as dumb as they hope we are today.
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